themighty logo

Drugs, Hugs and Losing My Jugs: A Breast Cancer Journal - June 1, 2015 - Texture for Taste


This is the fourteenth entry in a 31-day Breast Cancer Awareness Month exclusive series featuring the real journal entries of breast cancer survivor, Jessica Sliwerski. Read the previous entry here.

It’s a weird thing losing one’s tastebuds.

After physical therapy today I bought a breakfast wrap with egg whites, veggies, avocado and tons of hot sauce. Like a savage, I bit into it, chewed, swallowed and tasted nothing.

When I got home I popped open a can of pineapple juice and guzzled it. Again, nothing.

I prepared a mug of green tea and took a sip, anticipating the bitter tinge I’m accustomed to. But, nothing.

I sautéed some shiitake mushrooms with garlic olive oil and chili flakes and salt, took a bite and tasted a hint of something… the sharpness of the garlic, a tiny spark of chili heat.

For dinner the other night Kyle made chicken with broccoli, garlic and ginger. I tasted that, especially the flavor-soaked broccoli.

I ate cherries. Nothing.

I drank cinnamon tea. Something.

I made poached eggs and salmon for breakfast yesterday morning. I tasted slime.

I made hummus. I tasted lemons, sort of.

I opened a box of See’s chocolates, the tiny silver box with about a dozen of the best milk and dark chocolate candies and none of the loser flavors that fill the two-pound box. I bit into a piece of milk chocolate-covered toffee and, closing my eyes, let it just melt on my tongue.

I tasted that. Oh, god, I tasted that hard.

And then I tasted the 11 remaining pieces of candy in less than 10 minutes; chocolate never tasted so fucking good.

I sat staring at the empty box, wanting to cry. To not taste so much, yet to still taste chocolate and See’s chocolate at that. I wondered if it had more to do with my many happy memories of See’s and less so to do with the actual chocolate.

I poured a generous glass of jizz juice and hoped I wouldn’t taste it. I didn’t, so I crushed it and poured another.

Grandma’s Swedish pancakes. I taste those. I taste the warmth and the butter and the love with which they were made. She stocked my fridge when she was here last week, but now my rations are dwindling. I eat the crepe-like pancakes late at night when I’m too anxious too sleep and sad and scared and still hungry from another less-than-satisfying vegetable-based dinner. I throw one pancake in the microwave for 15 seconds, excitedly dancing around on the kitchen floor in anticipation of the comfort and soon, the sleep.

Organic super salad with raspberry vinaigrette. I tasted nothing but the acute sting of red onions.

German chocolate. My friend hooked me up with several bars of milk chocolate from Germany. One of them was a coconut milk chocolate bar. I don’t even like coconut. But that chocolate was sheer fucking heaven. Velvety, smooth, with just the right amount of a crunch. And the feel of that crunch, it was like honeycomb. I’ve never had such amazing chocolate in my life.

“I taste you,” I kept thinking. “I fucking taste you.”

“Are you licking the wrapper?” Kyle asked, disgusted.

I gave him a dirty look. How dare he interrupt my sugar-laced reverie to judge me and my tiny enfeebled tastebuds?

Texture and nostalgia have replaced taste. The meltiness of chocolate, the crunchiness of nuts, the softness of mushrooms, the squishiness of blueberries, the smoothness of caramel, the butteriness of, well, anything. I can’t get enough of textures as my brain tries to reinvent the tastes of foods. My tongue is a texture slut. And my brain works to invoke happy memories of food to fill in the gaps where once there was true taste.

My mom told me a story about a painter who suddenly couldn’t see colors and over time he learned to differentiate by texture; he noticed the paints’ textures were each individually unique and he was keenly aware of the texture of objects in the world around him.

I am like that painter now as my little body-that-could tries to recreate the taste of food.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo by pamelasphotopoetry